Peace for the Soul

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Gaia: The Ashram in the Clouds

THE PEPSI HR CONSULTANT WHO GAVE IT ALL UP TO LIVE ON A MOUNTAIN
Tucked away above the quiet terraced town of Kookal, Tamil Nadu (South India), one finds a true sanctuary; an area so beautiful and pristine that one is quickly forgiven for having thought such places existed only within the pages of fantasy. (Given, of course, that you chance upon the right muddied track.)

Snaking its way around the hillside, the path rises and falls over rocky outcrops before opening upon a luscious green staircase of disused rice paddies. And there, against a background of deep green trees and the white-grey dermis of the mountain stands Gaia, the ashram in the clouds.

Gaia is also the name given to the life-giving force of nature, that which some may call Mother Nature.

The main building is mud-walled and built by locals. There is a kitchen with an additional larger room where the occupants eat, sleep and chatter excitedly, and a bathroom nestled between two enormous boulders below the house.

All electricity is supplied from four solar panels, and the water is retrieved from a river gulley where two shoulders of the mountain rub together. Dotted around the property are several tents, providing the option to sleep outside.

The richness and moisture of the land and vegetation seep so freely into the environment that you feel as if you are being constantly and delightfully embraced by the Earth. Walking around barefooted, the soil hugs your soles; the air: so heavy and rich that it is rather like being consumed by the world; suspended in a breath.

Throughout the day, while the trees and plant life respire, a full-bodied mist slowly bands together to blanket the entire vista; and later, as the air reaches for the stratosphere — the impeccably clear ceiling — the mist coalesces to form fantastic blue clouds, before thundering down heavily against the corrugated roof.

Vishnu, one of the permanent members of the Gaia community (and the hilariously informal resident guru) tells me that the water contains 20ppm (parts per million) of pollutants. In other parts of India, this figure reaches as high as 500ppm. “Up here,” he keeps telling me, “you are literally inside the water cycle.”

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A photo of a local man took against the background of mist

Everything is brilliantly fresh and vibrant: living, growing, thriving. Here, for me, the unassertive perfection of nature has never been so easy to hear. Gaia is an exhibition, a showroom for the artistry of life. A thin coating of crystal droplets covers all fauna, like a market stall, where the vendor routinely sprays their apples, bananas, and oranges.

It feels like you could almost kick-off — and swim in the aliveness of it all.

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THIS LOOKS AN AMAZING PLACE

Totally idyllic, no doubt!

However, there are oh, so many places on Earth that if we took the trouble to equip it like this one, we could just live a saner and safer life. 

i totally agreecarmen

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